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Catching up with Miranda Lambert

Nashville doesn't know what to do with Miranda Lambert, the most intriguing country performer of the 21st century. The 25-year-old singer looks like the cheerleader on Heroes; she hunts and shoots like Rambo with a grudge. Her last two albums, 2005's Kerosene and 2007's Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, were catchy, killer revenge fantasies about good drinking and dumb exes. The Texas tomboy is a critical fave but a commercial question mark. She's not a pop princess; she's more like Scary Underwood. • Lambert's new album, Revolution, doesn't go for the kill like the old ones did, but there are still stale cigarettes, crappy relationships and a radio with a bullet between its dials. It's the sound of an artist trying to explore other sides of her talent without selling out to the suits. First single Dead Flowers may come off at first like a typical breakup ballad, but listen close and you'll hear genuine edge and remorse. • Because I both fear and adore her, I sent Lambert a friendly, frisky note of appreciation. Here's our ensuing cyberchat:

You're portraying yourself as a lot more mellow these days. Or at least not as much of a pistol-packing mama. Is that part of the Revolution?

I was ready to reveal more of who I am with this record. I've learned in the past two years that I have the ability to do so much more than just be the "wild-eyed crazy ex-girlfriend." Don't get me wrong, I love my first two albums a lot. … This is the record where I got to know myself.

Lambert's writing partner is Natalie Hemby. She's a "bada-- songwriter," Miranda writes, "and she is a normal girl just like me. We're both dealing with the mystery of being in our 20s."

You're in a great relationship in real life. The woman in first single Dead Flowers — not so much. Where did you "find" that character?

The concept for the song actually started out by me getting these beautiful flowers for Valentine's Day. It got sad when I had to throw them out as I was leaving on tour a few days later and looked in the rearview mirror as I drove off. The song literally came to me when I thought about those dried dead flowers in my yard. Thinking about that, the words just came pouring out.

Lambert has been dating fellow country star Blake Shelton for a few years. If they ever break up — yikes. Good for fans, but you have to think really bad for ol' Blake.

Part of the fun of your live shows is seeing you sling your guitar all over the joint. I saw you open for Kenny Chesney, and you almost impaled a roadie! Any close calls on tour lately, Danger Girl?

Ha! Close calls keep my crew on their toes. But luckily, no actual collisions happened this year, knock on wood. I think after all this time on the road, they've learned to catch whatever guitar flies their way!

A few years ago, when Lambert toured with Dierks Bentley, she wiped out onstage. "Now I watch the wires," she writes, "especially when I wear high heels."

The Halloween Playlist: Part I

I grew up in Westford, Mass., a sleepy hollow 25 miles northwest of Boston. The apple-pickin' town was quiet, creepy; it looked cool at Christmas, but it was built for Halloween. When I was 11, Oct. 31 turned wicked. That was when, at the last minute, a brutish pal withdrew an invite to go trick-or-treating. Devastation! I sat on the couch, blubbering all over my hobo costume. My parents volunteered to take me out for candy, but I sobbed no. So my mother grabbed the car keys and her kid and said, "Let's go!" She drove me not to the movies or an arcade; instead, we went to Valle's restaurant, where she ordered me twin lobsters. Let me tell you, this hobo chowed down! Since that night, I've celebrated every Halloween with gusto, if not crustaceans. So over the next four weeks, I'll count down the 40 top Halloween songs for party purposes!

40 Tubular Bells,

Mike Oldfield

39 Shakin' Shakin' Shakes, Los Lobos

38 Sympathy for the

Devil, Rolling Stones

37 Dead Man's Party,

Oingo Boingo

36 House of Fun,

Madness

35 The Mask,

Danger Doom

34 Somebody's Watching Me, Rockwell

33 Ghostbusters,

Ray Parker Jr.

32 The Boogie Monster,

Gnarls Barkley

31 The Devil Went Down to Georgia,

Charlie Daniels Band

The Noisettes

Album: Wild Young Hearts (Mercury)

In stores: Now

Meet pop's new femme fatale: Before you start lobbing suspicious Amy Winehouse and Duffy comparisons at this London trio, let it be known that singer/bassist Shingai Shoniwa is more like Garbage's Shirley Manson. The ever-morphing musician, who's of Zimbabwean descent, shifts from punk to dance to the retro soul heard on shimmying first single Never Forget You. The band's finger-snapping assault keeps you guessing, especially since those chiming keyboards can turn into growly guitars at any second. Things get a little too mellow on the album's back half, but that firebrand Shoniwa eventually reheats the party.

Reminds us of: You should also check out the Noisettes' '06's breakout single Sister Rosetta (Capture the Spirit), a rock 'n' roughhouse affair that borders on the Sex Pistolian. Good for waking up, working out.

Download these: Never Forget You and Wild Young Hearts

Grade: B

Barbra Streisand

Album: Love Is the Answer (Columbia)

In stores: Now

It's gotta be the schnoz: In doing a Google search for Barbra Streisand's age — Babs looks swell for 67! — I came across a 1975 live performance of The Way We Were. I'm not the world's biggest fan, but she was altogether superheroic. I'm always impressed by those who are so good at their jobs, they look as if they're making magic off-the-cuff. Her delivery was relaxed but devastating, all those "scattered pictures" getting you good. That gravitas, that not-so-funny-girl quality to Streisand's art doesn't exist anymore. Her rich tone and natural phrasing are still lovely, mind you. But on this album of jazz and pop standards, producer Diana Krall paints her hero in such soft orchestral focus, there's no emotional oomph to the 13 tracks. Sparkly? Yes. Moving? No.

Reminds us of: This is Mom's Christmas gift. Don't tell her!

Download this: Make Someone Happy

Grade: B-

ALBUM REVIEW

ALBUM REVIEW

Catching up with Miranda Lambert 10/03/09 [Last modified: Saturday, October 3, 2009 5:30am]

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